On the Topic of Math Sprints and Anxiety

Reflecting on my time at the two national math educator’s meetings, one interesting dichotomy appeared over timed fact tests. On the one side was Jo Boaler stating that timed tests are the root of math anxiety. Pushback came from others, most notably Greg Tang and Scott Baldridge pointing out that kids are timed in real life. They are put under pressure in real life. Students should learn from these experiences, not freak out over them.

It’s a powerful discussion: How do we get kids from fluency (I can use strategies to solve 7 x 8) to automaticity (I just know 7 x 8)? Do we need to get them to automaticity? Do timed tests create math anxiety? Is there spelling test anxiety? Should the key anxiety word be “test”, not “math”?

This conversation appeared recently on twitter after someone posted the “How to Give a Math Sprint” pdf from this site:

Yep, I’d be worried if kids who couldn’t make connections were timed, too.

I’m a proponent of Math Sprints; thoughtfully structured timed tests designed to practice one skill. Sprints are not your typical timed test. Students compete against themselves to improve the number of problems completed in one minute. Then the sprints are thrown away, not recorded in a grade book. They are practice. Period. And just one way to practice math facts.

Do Sprints harm students or cause math anxiety?

Not when administered correctly. I work with a school for students with ADHD and learning disabilities. Initially, teachers there said things like, “I can’t time my kids, they are slow processors”. It turns out that students at this school LOVE sprints. They can always improve by at least one problem on the second sprint. With all the content flying at them, practicing facts is one thing they can do and feel successful with.

Allison Coates runs the non-profit Math Walk Institute that works with schools and students to build a bridge to Algebra.

In every school we’ve ever worked, nearly all students enjoy sprints. They don’t see them as tests if the teacher doesn’t present them as tests. They see them as another fun game they can play against themselves (or against the teacher). Practice makes permanent their knowledge, and students love knowing they have knowledge. Knowledge is power.

Are Sprints from Singapore?

Nope. Sprints were created by Dr. Yoram Sagher as a fluency program to work with any curriculum. I’ve considered them a way to compensate for differences between Singapore and the U.S. In Singapore, parents drill fact fluency while schools teach the conceptual understanding. It’s not unusual for a first grader in Singapore to know all their math facts. It’s the school’s job to then get the understanding of multiplication into such a student. Contrast that with the U.S., where it is less likely that parents practice math facts at home with their child. Few American programs include a fluency component, often farming it out to the web or an iPad app.

Scott Baldridge has a great blog post on sprints: Fluency without Equivocation. I suggest you read it now.

My favorite Sprint books are Differentiated Math Sprints as they offer two difficulty levels with the same answers.

Eureka Math Sprints are aligned to Eureka Math (referenced in Scott Baldridge’s post above).

Wondering about the emphasis on math facts? Read: Why Mental Arithmetic Counts: Brain Activation during Single Digit Arithmetic Predicts High School Math Scores


Slides and Handouts from my NCSM/NCTM Presentations

NCTM model session It was so fun to present not one, not two, but three, sessions at recent national math educators’ annual conferences in Boston.

At both the NCSM and NCTM**, Lauri Susi and I presented “Strip Models, Tape Diagrams, and Bar Models, Oh My!” Slides that accompanied that presentation are online. Some slides don’t have the bar models on them as we drew them in during the session.


NCTM Singapore Math Presentation

In addition, at NCTM I presented an Exhibitor Workshop entitled: Filling Knowledge Gaps with Critical Singapore Math® Approach (Gr. 3-5). Thanks! Singapore Math, Inc. for inviting to speak on your behalf!

**National Conference of Supervisors of Mathematics and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics


Dispatches from 2015 National Math Educator Conferences

This week, I’m attending the 2015 Annual Meetings of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in Boston. I presented Strip Models, Tape Diagrams, and Bar Models, Oh My! at NCSM on Tuesday and will do a similar session at NCTM on Thursday. I’m excited to share some resources that are now available!

conceptua-logo New bar modeling tool! Conceptua Math has a beta version of their bar model tool available to review. Check it out at http://www.bit.ly/barmodeltool.
They welcome your feedback.

kakoomaGreg Tang has a fun fact automaticity practice app – and it’s a game! And there are iPad apps! Visit Greg Tang Math for Kakooma. Greg claims the record for the addition puzzle is 8 seconds, set by a student.

RodelRodel Foundation in Arizona has released a fabulous new book that schools will want in their library: Math Power: Simple Solutions for Mastering Math.  This handbook is full of visuals and is written in English and Spanish. Here’s a page chock full of great definitions and pictorial models:

Math Power

Handouts from my sessions:

NCSM: #232 Strip Models Tape Diagrams Bar Models Oh My!

NCTM: #126 Strip Models Tape Diagrams Bar Models Oh My!

NCTM: #494.3 Filling in Knowledge Gaps: Critical lessons across grade levels 1-3 for students in grades 4-6




Previewing NCTM 2015 Conference Singapore Math Sessions

NCTM 2015 header  2015BostonAM_590x90_WebBanner_p1

The NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Annual Meeting & Exposition program is now online and it’s time for my annual review of Singapore Mathematics sessions.

Due to Common Core and the progressions documents, I’ve included sessions on Tape Diagrams and Strip Models as well as those on traditional Singapore Math® strategies.  The number of overall choices is one more than the number offered last year.

Bad news? Most of the sessions overlap.  Below are my thoughts on which session to choose, if you have a conflict.

Thursday, April 16: 8:00 AM-9:00 AM – Three sessions conflict

#5 A Model Approach to Teaching and Solving Word Problems
Lead Speaker: Greg Tang

Visual models are the key to making word problems easier to solve at every grade level. We’ll explore a strategic progression from discrete, to part-whole, to tape diagrams, and then to double number lines that develops the algebraic skills needed for higher math.

#12 Empowering Students to Deconstruct Word Problems
Lead Speaker: MaryJo Wieland
Co-Speaker: Lisa Watts-Lawton

Solving word problems is not about underlining key words. Just as writers use organizers, mathematicians need specific models to deconstruct the meaning inherent in addition and subtraction word problem types.

#36.1 Teaching Number Sense with Math Buddies, the Singapore Online Resource
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish Education

Research shows that number sense is built on mastery of place value as well as number facts. We’ll discuss place value as a fundamental element of Singapore Math® as well as number bonds and part-whole thinking. We’ll make use of Math Buddies, a K-5 digital resource, to take students through the concrete-pictorial-abstract approach to number sense.

Not familiar with Ms. Wieland, so can’t comment. Math Buddies is a great digital resource for Singapore Math, and it will also be modeled at their booth. I’ll be in Greg Tang’s session, he’s always engaging!

Thursday, April 16: 11:00 AM-12:00 PM – Two sessions conflict

#126 Strip Models, Tape Diagrams, and Bar Models, Oh My!
Lead Speaker: Cassy Turner – Hey that’s me!
Co-Speaker: Lauri Susi

These visual components sit at the intersection of Common Core, Singapore Math, and now technology! Learn why this visual model for word problems is so powerful, try some problems from the simple to the complex, and investigate web-based programs and iPad apps that will help anyone incorporate this effective strategy into their classrooms.

#144.4 Using Technology to Transform Singapore Math® in your Classroom!
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish Education

Join us to learn about Math in Focus® Digi+™. This teaching and learning tool will transform your class: facilitating class instruction, activities, intervention and differentiation solutions, and deepening the school-to-home connections with practice problems, immediate feedback, and parental support in a fun, interactive environment.

Well, my session, of course!

Thursday, April 16: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM – No conflict

#254.3 Meaningful Math Models and the Common Core
Exhibitor Workshop: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Come learn about math drawings and other math models that can be used in the classroom to show the mathematical aspects of a situation. Students make math drawings on their MathBoards, where parts of a drawing can be used while a student is explaining their solution method.

Friday, April 17: 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Three sessions conflict

#312 Models to Solve Word Problems: Visualization to See Mathematical Relationships
Lead Speaker: Andy Clark

Students struggle with word problems whether in elementary grades with a variety of whole number and fraction operations or the middle grades with ratio, proportion, and algebraic problems. This session will demonstrate the power of visual models to help students see mathematical relationships and solve even complex problems and applications

#321 Singapore’s Model Drawing Approach with a “Units” Sentence
Lead Speaker: Michael Winders

The Singapore model drawing approach can be used to solve a variety of word problems, but its true power lies in the way the process provides a bridge to algebraic thinking and techniques. I will show how a “units” sentence can be used to solve problems with diagrams, and how this idea transitions to purely algebraic solutions

#346 Representations with Tape Diagrams? What’s That?
Lead Speaker: Deborah Rutherford Lane

Tape diagrams help children to represent complex problems found in CCSSM testing. Bar models, in particular, work for all learners to make sense of complex word problems. This session will focus on how to lead children from beginning stages of whole number operations through fraction operation modeling from second up through sixth grades.

-> I’ll be checking out Michael Winders’ session on units.
-> Head to see Andy Clark, one of the authors of  the Math in Focus series for a fast paced overview of Models

Friday, April 17: 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM – Two sessions conflict

#470 Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract: Singapore’s Approach to Math Instruction
Lead Speaker: Richard Bisk

Singapore’s students have excelled in international studies of math performance. The concrete-pictorial-abstract approach supports both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. Abstraction gives math its power, but must be based on understanding. We’ll consider examples from place value, operations, problem solving, and even calculus.

#494.3 Filling Knowledge Gaps with Critical Singapore Math® Approach (Gr. 3-5)
Exhibitor Workshop: Singapore Math, Inc.

During Singapore Math® implementation, gaps in student knowledge can be a challenge. Upper elementary students frequently lack the foundation provided by the 1-3rd grade Singapore Math® Curriculum. In this session, you’ll learn the classroom-tested critical lessons and concepts students must master before jumping into their grade-level content.

-> I’ll be presenting the Singapore Math, Inc. session for them, but I’d love to see Richy Bisk’s examples from Calculus.

Friday, April 17: 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM

#549.6 Developing Strong K-2 Number Sense with Singapore Math® Primary Mathematics
Exhibitor Workshop: Singapore Math, Inc.

Through the use of manipulatives and activities, this interactive workshop gives teachers practical understanding of concrete-pictorial-abstract (CPA) approach. Lean strategies for building strong number sense foundation, composing/decomposing numbers within 10 and regrouping within 20, and formative/summative assessments.

Saturday, April 18: 8:00 AM-9:00 AM – No conflict

#664 Ratio Tables and Tape Diagrams #notjustforRP
Lead Speaker: Melissa Waggoner
Co-Speaker: Lindsay Kelley

Students learn how to use ratio tables and tape diagrams in the Ratios and Proportional Relationships domain of CCSSM. Then what? In this interactive session, we will explore how these tools can be used to build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding in other content domains, including the Number System and Expressions and Equations.

I’m intrigued.

See you in Boston! Email me if you’d like a tour at NCTM through materials or just talk all things math: Cassy (at) SingaporeMathSource.com


Who to see at National Math Educators Conferences this year?


As a full-time trainer and instructional coach, I know the importance of professional development and continuing education. Since embarking on this career path seven years ago, I’ve attended annual meetings of both the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and NCSM (formerly the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics). Attending NCTM, NCSM and other regional, national and international math conferences and educational events fulfills my personal ongoing learning goals.

In 2012, I was thrilled to have a proposal to present at NCTM accepted! (Here are two posts on that presentation: tools and thoughts).

NCTM 2015 header  2015BostonAM_590x90_WebBanner_p1For 2015, I submitted similar proposals to both NCTM and NCTM…and BOTH were accepted. Woot! And good news, my co presenter will be Lauri Susi of Conceptua Math.

Here’s the description:

Strip Models, Tape Diagrams, and Bar Models, Oh My!

Lead Speaker: Cassandra Turner
Co-Speaker: Lauri Susi

These visual components sit at the intersection of Common Core, Singapore Math®, and now technology! Learn why this visual model for word problems is so powerful, try some problems from the simple to the complex, and investigate web-based programs and iPad apps that will help anyone incorporate this effective strategy into their classrooms.

The NCSM Presentation is on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM.

The NCTM Presentation is on Thursday, April 16, 2015, from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM (details here).

But that’s not all!

This year, Singapore Math Inc. asked me to present an NCTM workshop to address some practical considerations schools face when implementing the curriculum.

Filling Knowledge Gaps with Critical Singapore Math® Approach Across Grade Levels (Gr. 3-5)

One of the biggest challenges during a Singapore Math® implementation can be the gaps in student knowledge. Upper elementary students frequently lack the foundation provided by the 1st-3rd grade Singapore curriculum. In this direct from the classroom session, you’ll learn the critical lessons and concepts students must master before jumping into their grade-level content.

This NCTM Workshop is on Friday, April 16, 2015, from 12:30 – 1:30 PM

When the complete conference schedules for both NCTM and NCSM are available, I’ll publish an overview of Singapore Math® presentations along with recommendations for session at each conference as I have done every year since 2010.

If you are headed to Boston in April, please consider attending one of these sessions.  I’d love to connect with you!

NCSM Boston2015BostonAM_200x2002015 NCSM Annual Conference – April 13-15, 2015

A Vision for Mathematics Leaders

2015 NCTM Annual Meeting & Exposition – April 15-18, 2015

Effective Teaching to Ensure Mathematical Success for All

Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

[Note: Conference organizers include a “Times Subject to Change” disclaimer. I’ll update this information if it changes.]